T'Pol resisted the sudden, illogical urge to roll her eyes. She had a feeling that was Commander Tucker's frustration she was sensing, but she had to agree with his assessment. Lieutenant Reed was attempting to plan a rescue for the captain and Kamea, but so far they did not have a plan. Ensign Mayweather's suggestion of only beaming Captain Archer aboard and leaving Kamea behind made much more sense than anything the lieutenant was proposing, and it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that she didn't care for the girl. Of course not. Because Vulcans didn't let emotions interfere with decisions. Ever.
Malcolm and Travis were "debating" the merits of their plans – meaning that they were arguing about which was better – when the door to the bridge slid open and the captain limped in. Kamea was right behind him.
For a moment, no one spoke. T'Pol glanced back at her fellow officers and saw that they were all staring with wide eyes and open mouths. She stepped forward. "Captain, I am pleased to see that you are unharmed."
"I wouldn't say that," Kamea said, rubbing the back of her head with a wince. She shook her head. "There's a bump. Damn Ferengi. Have I mentioned that I hate them?"
Captain Archer rolled his eyes. "Only every five seconds since we got off their ship."
"Well, I do."
Trip looked as though he wanted to hug the captain, but he wisely refrained from doing so. "Good to see you, Captain," he said. He gestured at Malcolm and Travis. "We were just planning your rescue."
Archer raised an eyebrow but said nothing.
"You shouldn't have bothered," Kamea said. She was apparently speaking to everyone, but she was looking at T'Pol. "Spunau bolayalar t'Wehku bolayalar t'Zamu il t'Veh."
T'Pol hoped that she managed to hide her shock, but judging from the smirk that suddenly lit up Trip's face, he knew otherwise. She forced herself to keep her gaze on Kamea. "You would be willing to sacrifice yourself so that Enterprise could escape?"
Kamea nodded. "Of course. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."
Malcolm cleared his throat, and everyone turned to look at him. "I thought you said that you weren't ready to die."
She narrowed her eyes. "What, do you tape everything I say?" She groaned. "If you want to get technical, no, I don't want to die. No one ever wants to die. But sometimes you don't have a choice. And if it comes down to me or everyone else on board Enterprise, then for God's sake I hope you people don't pick me."
Archer nodded at Hoshi. "Hail our friends. Let's see what they have to say for themselves."
Ensign Sato seated herself at her station and set about doing what the captain had asked. After awhile, she turned to the captain. "They're responding."
The Ferengi that appeared on the view screen looked livid. He was screaming at them in what T'Pol presumed was his native language. After a few seconds, Hoshi had calibrated the universal translator to the Ferengi tongue, and the words echoing through the cockpit suddenly became English. They were…not pleasant. T'Pol could only make out a few words in between the foot stomping and the spitting.
The captain ignored the Ferengi's outburst and gestured that Kamea should join him in the middle of the bridge. "I'd be careful what you say to us," he said, as Kamea stepped up beside him, "if you don't want my friend here to inform the Xyrillians about what you've done."
She felt a burst of irritation and glanced at Trip. His eyes were narrowed, and she suspected that he was remembering the last time they had encountered Xyrillians, and he had been accidentally impregnated. She turned her attention back to Captain Archer, wondering what he was talking about and how this was supposed to help them.
The Ferengi, she noticed, had stopped yelling and was now looking at them curiously. "You know nothing," he said.
Kamea smiled. "Oh, I beg to differ. Now, I can contact them or you can do that yourself, but one way or another, they're going to find out that it was you who broke onto their ship and downloaded their databanks."
The Ferengi became, if possible, more enraged by this declaration. "That was you! The meddling Vulcan who couldn't keep her pointed ears out of other people's business!"
Kamea noticeably bristled after the Ferengi's last statement but, to her credit, did not respond to it. "It's really very simple, when you think about it. Either deal with us, or deal with the Xyrillians, but I have a feeling that they won't be quite so forgiving as we may be inclined to be."
The Ferengi raised his eyebrows and stared at Kamea, as though trying to determine her intent. "You're bluffing."
Kamea folded her arms across her chest, her jaw set. "Try me."
After several moments of silence, which her human counterparts would have no doubt deemed "tense" but did not make T'Pol anxious in the slightest, the Ferengi threw up his arms in surrender. "Very well. What do we have to do to ensure that you don't turn us in?"
Kamea looked to the captain. Archer stepped forward. "Undock and get the hell away from us. And if you ever come near us again, we'll blast you out of the sky."
The Ferengi scowled and addressed Kamea. "And I have your assurance that you won't tell the Xyrillians?"
Kamea shrugged. "Rule of Acquisition number sixteen."
He nodded. "A deal is a deal. Excellent." He turned around and spoke to his invisible crew. "Undock us from the Earth ship."
The view screen went blank, and Captain Archer turned to face Malcolm, who during the course of the conversation had taken his place at his station. Malcolm glanced up and nodded. "They've undocked and are moving away."
Archer patted Kamea on the back. "Well done, Kamea."
Trip chuckled, but T'Pol knew it was because he was nervous and not particularly amused. "Who would've thought, after everything, that blackmail was the way to go?"
"Does anyone else find that anticlimactic?" Hoshi asked.
"Don't complain, Hoshi," Travis said. "They're gone."
"Captain," Malcolm said, "if you don't mind my asking, how did you escape?"
Archer sighed and laid a hand on Kamea's shoulder. She flinched but did not pull away. "It was all Kamea. She's quite a fighter."
"Tell me about it," Malcolm said. But it was said under his breath, and T'Pol had the feeling that only she and Kamea had heard him. T'Pol raised her eyebrows at Kamea, who returned the look but said nothing.
"Kamea," T'Pol said, confused by the girl's silence, "what did he mean when he referred to you as 'that meddling Vulcan'?"
Kamea just stared at her. "Long story." She turned on her heel and walked across the bridge. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a call to make."
Trip grabbed her by the wrist as she walked past him. "You said you wouldn't tell the Xyrillians."
Kamea nodded. "That's true, Commander. I said I wouldn't tell the Xyrillians. I made no guarantees about telling anyone else." She gave him a small smile. "I have some friends who owe me favors."
She didn't wait for a response, yanked her arm free of the commander's grip, and disappeared off the bridge. T'Pol turned back to the captain, who had dropped into his chair and settled in for a long journey.
"Travis," the captain said, an illogically large grin on his face, "I don't care which direction we go. Just get us the hell out of here."
Ensign Mayweather nodded enthusiastically. "On it, sir."
T'Pol sat down at her station.
T'Pol went to see Kamea later that night, when most of the ship was asleep and only a skeleton crew remained to keep Enterprise running. T'Pol had never been to the girl's quarters and had never seen a reason to, but she made it a point to stop by and inform Kamea how admirably she had performed that day.
She rang the bell and waited for Kamea's response.
"Come on in, T'Pol," Kamea said, and though T'Pol was only slightly shocked that she knew it would be her, she chose not to comment.
She walked into the room and examined it. T'Pol's quarters were Spartan by human standards but considered luxurious by Vulcan. Kamea's room resembled a human's, in that it was decorated, T'Pol supposed, in order to adequately reflect Kamea's personality. The shelf above the bed was full of Kamea's many books. The wall underneath was plastered with pictures, which must have been hidden inside the books. The blanket with her father's name sat at the foot of the bed, and her flowered necklace hung on the back of the desk chair, in which she was now seated, head on her arms, staring out the view port.
Kamea did not even turn to acknowledge T'Pol's presence. "Did you want something?" she asked. She did not sound annoyed, simply tired.
T'Pol stifled a sigh of exasperation and clasped her hands behind her back. "I wanted to tell you how impressed I was with your behavior today."
That made Kamea turn around. "How so?"
"You behaved as a member of the crew," T'Pol said. "These past few weeks, I have doubted your loyalty, since you are not a member of Enterprise. However, it seems that I have been mistaken. I apologize for the way I have been treating you since you arrived on board."
Kamea dismissed T'Pol's apology with a wave of her hand. "You were just being a Vulcan."
T'Pol raised her eyebrows. "You are half-Vulcan."
Kamea lifted one shoulder in a barely perceptible shrug. "I don't know what I am, to tell you the truth." She turned back to the view port.
T'Pol bit the inside of her cheek, a nervous habit she had adopted from Trip. "You used a word once that I believe applies now. You said 'ohana."
Kamea's ears perked visibly, but she said nothing.
"According to Lieutenant Reed, it means that no one gets left behind or forgotten."
Kamea sighed heavily. "Enterprise isn't my 'ohana," she said, and her voice broke as she spoke. "Half of the crew still flinches every time I walk past them. They don't want me here."
T'Pol crossed her arms. "Your continued presence on board is the captain's decision. As long as he allows you to stay, they can say nothing about it."
Kamea grunted. "They can say plenty. Just not to the captain."
T'Pol pursed her lips and walked over to the desk, standing directly in Kamea's line of sight. "Commander Tucker dropped by my quarters earlier and asked me to look over some calculations. He said that you requested I double-check them."
Kamea laid her head on her desk but looked up at T'Pol. "I'm kind of sick of blowing up the engines."
"Indeed." T'Pol was tired of those accidents as well. "I discovered a mistake in the math, which I believe is causing the problem. I have corrected the error and returned the PADD to Commander Tucker. He expects you to be in engineering at 0800 tomorrow morning to begin the modifications."
Kamea nodded. "Fine."
Sensing that she was going to get no more out of Kamea, T'Pol turned to go. She paused at the door and glanced back at Kamea. Remembering her and Trip's conversation earlier, about Kamea's insomnia, T'Pol said, "I could instruct you in the ways of Vulcan neuro-pressure. Commander Tucker benefited from my teachings a great deal."
She expected Kamea to give her a sly grin or make some cryptic comment about her and Trip's bizarre relationship. But all Kamea said was, "No thank you. I'm fine."
T'Pol permitted herself a small sigh and left Kamea's quarters.
Kamea plodded into engineering early, having once again been unable to sleep. She yawned widely, leaning against the railing in order to keep herself upright. She knew what it must have cost T'Pol to offer a neuro-pressure session, and though she was sorely tempted to take her cousin up on her offer, she didn't want to drag anyone else into her problem. Although it would help in getting both Trip and Malcolm off her back.
She wandered through the engine room, looking for Trip, and caught the near-routine whispers that followed her everywhere she went. She turned in the direction of the voices and saw Crewmen Garner and Mendes standing off to the side.
"She creeps me out," Mendes said, examining something on the PADD she was holding. "I heard from Pearson that she can read minds."
Garner rolled her eyes and said nothing.
"It's bad enough we've got the Vulcans breathing down our necks as it is, we don't need them to be psychic, too," Mendes said, turning and inspecting the plasma coil.
"If she was a problem," Garner said, tightening the plasma tube, "Captain Archer wouldn't let her stay on board."
"I don't know why Captain Archer is letting her stay," Mendes said. "We should just drop her off at the next inhabited planet and be done with it."
Garner snorted. "You just don't like the way Lieutenant Reed looks at her."
Kamea cleared her throat as loudly as possible. When the two crewmen saw that she had noticed them, they stopped talking and blushed a furious shade of red. Garner gave her a pathetic wave, but Mendes turned her back on her and went back to the plasma coil.
Kamea sighed and continued on her way. Some things, unfortunately, would never change.
As she suspected, Trip was already there, eagerly running around like a young child on Christmas morning. He looked up when she approached, grinning broadly. "Good, T'Pol gave you my message."
Kamea nodded, swallowing yet another yawn. Apparently Trip's proclamation that she wasn't allowed back in engineering without a full night's sleep had slipped his mind in the wake of all the excitement of the previous day. "Yeah. So are we ready to start?"
They worked on the modifications most of the day, stopping only for lunch. They went slowly, both determined not to have any accidents or explosions during this round of experiments, and the only progress they made was that they managed to not blow up the engine, for which Kamea was grateful. She was spending more time in sickbay than she would have preferred.
After Trip's shift was finished, they went to the mess hall for dinner and noticed that there was a poker game in progress. Malcolm, Travis, Rostov, and Commander Kelby were seated at a table in the back corner – where Kamea generally sat if she was dining alone – each with a small pile of chips and a handful of cards. Trip walked over to investigate and, for lack of anything else to do, Kamea followed.
"Commander," Malcolm said, grinning, "care to join us?"
Trip laughed and shook his head. "Sure, why not?" He dragged a chair over from a nearby, empty table and plopped down. Travis handed him a stack of chips.
Kamea sighed and turned around, deciding that she would eat and then go visit T'Pol to see if the offer for neuro-pressure still stood, but Malcolm's voice stopped her.
"Kamea? Want to play?"
She turned back around. Rostov had pulled a chair in between himself and Kelby and was patting it invitingly, while Travis held up a stack of chips and Malcolm waved the deck around. She allowed herself a tiny smile. "I don't know…"
Malcolm scoffed. "Surely in all your exploits at school you played poker once or twice?"
She widened her grin. She had, in fact, played a number of times, but it had been years. Klingons weren't exactly into card games. "You don't mind?"
"Course not," Trip said. "Have a seat."
Kamea sat down as primly as possible, surveying the table with interest. "What are we going to play?"
Malcolm smiled and handed her the deck. "Why don't you decide?"
She cocked an eyebrow, sensing that the only reason they were inviting her to join their game is because they suspected she had absolutely no idea how to play and would be an easy target. But as she glanced around the table, she realized that none of them were staring at her as though she were a freak, and none of them had flinched when she sat down, and none of them were whispering about her to their neighbors. That knowledge made her feel infinitely better than she had felt earlier that morning.
She took the cards from him and nodded. "All right." She shuffled the deck several times, using some of the trick moves that her friend Bruno had taught her during sophomore year. She watched in delight as the guys' eyes widened. She began to deal the cards. "The name of the game, gentlemen, is Texas Hold 'Em. No maximum bet, nothing wild, blind ante."
Trip groaned and elbowed Malcolm in the arm. "Great idea, Malcolm."
A/N: Spunau bolayalar t'Wehku bolayalar t'Zamu il t'Veh -- "The needs of the many outweight the needs of the few or the one." Courtesy of the Vulcan Language Dictionary. They rock my world.
I lied about coming up with a reason as to how no one had heard of the Ferengi in TNG. Actually, I didn't lie, but I couldn't figure out how to squeeze it in. I'll address it in the next book.
And so ends part 3 of the Kamea Chronicles. To be continued in part 4, "Secrets and Lies", which will be up after a brief hiatus. I'm going to do with that part what I did with the first 2, and have it mostly written before I start posting, so that I can update more frequently. But I had this written before my hard drive crashed, so hopefully it won't take too long to get it written. I'll try to have the first chapter up after the 4th of July.
Thank you guys for your patience while I spent forever finishing this! And thanks so much for the reviews! Y'ins guys also rock my world!